One thing I enjoy about the Internet is the chance to discuss differing beliefs with differing individuals. Often we can get stuck in our own rut, talking to only those that agree with our position—this gives us a chance to “stretch our mental legs” as it were.
As a debate was raging elsewhere, a thought struck me that I hadn’t considered before: Can God make a law He can’t break?
We have all seen the conundrum of, “Can God make a rock He can’t lift?” Which demonstrates nicely that we need to limit the description of a God, at least to the logical realm, or otherwise it will simply degrade into meaningless babble. And our debates can revolve around whether God is limited by His own nature, morally, or by some external determination of morals, but can God self-limit Himself to forever bind Himself, thus creating a new moral?
We seem to agree that in the normal sense, God voluntarily limits Himself to the laws of Nature. The Earth revolves around the sun at a certain amount of time. Not a new time every year as determined by God. Gravity attracts at a certain rate. The tides can be measured.
We also seem to agree that if there was a God that interacted with the natural world, it could set aside those natural laws, and remove the limit He has placed on Himself. We even have a name for those instances—“miracles.” The problem comes in, is to determine where morals fall. Are they inherent within God, like logic, that cannot be extracted, or are they like the laws of nature, that God normally limits Himself, but can, on occasion, breach by His choosing?
The reason this even crossed my mind was thinking on the Adam and Eve story, with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We all know the story, God creates a Garden, places a tree in it, and tells Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit of the tree. As near as the simplistic story tells us, there was only one moral in the Garden, that is to Not eat the Fruit. It came to me: “Could God have eaten the fruit?”
Moral. Let’s assume that God could eat the Fruit. As we see from the story, eating the fruit would not have given God any more knowledge than He already had. The breach of morality could be disobedience to God, not the actual eating of the fruit.
Under this scenario. God could have arbitrarily picked anything—“Don’t pet the tiger,”-- and that would become the immoral act. God could pet the tiger, humans could not. The tree itself, being named “Knowledge of Good and Evil” means nothing. Could have been an average apple tree.
This raises interesting questions, though as to what is “moral” and what is not. If it is moral for God, can it be immoral for us? That would arguably mean that all things that are immoral for us could be moral for God. He simple arbitrarily picked a few items out that He is most certainly allowed to do, but we cannot.
But then should we attempt to imitate God? Should we research an determine what His morals are, and emulate them, or do we accept what other humans say God says we can or cannot do, and accept that?
This also brings into question whether God is being arbitrary. By what method could we possibly determine He is using to pick what is moral/immoral for us to do? Is it our conscience? Is it societal determination? Further, God could easily, using His whim, make something moral today and immoral tomorrow.
Assume, A is moral to God. Whether A is murder or eating ice cream doesn’t matter. Under this scenario, God can tell humans that A is immoral to humans. But since it is actually moral, the very next day, God can say A is moral, and that, too, would be correct. The next, A is now immoral, and so on.
The only determinative as to what is moral/immoral is that the same action may be disobedient to God one day, but obedient to God the next. Which causes some concern. God can’t disobey God. Even if, on Monday, God says, “A is wrong. It will always be wrong. No body, not even me, can do A,” on Tuesday, God can say, “New Rule. Now A is O.K. for me to do, and not anyone else.” God can change in an instant, and never disobey God.
For all you moral realists, this is a bit of problem because it vests morality in a God that can change its mind with no retribution. Saying Eating the Fruit was Moral for God, but Immoral for us, leaves us with the complete inability to determine what is actually moral, and what God is just ordering.
Immoral Assuming God could not eat the fruit. Think this through. God is the determination of morality. He creates a situation that He knows he cannot violate. It is in a tree that He created. It is an action that he created. (No tree==no choice=no immorality.)
This makes God the creator of immorality. Even for Himself. On what basis, other than whim, is it created? Prior to creation, no immorality. At creation, He makes a tree. Nothing inherent in the tree itself (in fact, to God, it would simply impart knowledge he already has.) Then God says, “No can eat. Not even me.” At this point, the possibility of immorality comes into existence. Prior to that second, no such immoral act could possibly exist. Only after that second does the possibility of immorality exist.
But if God can create immorality, equally, it would seem, He could create morality. Which would mean that, just like the previous problem the next instant He could “undo” His statement, and remove the immorality from eating the tree.
Non-moral Perhaps it would make no difference for God to eat the fruit or not. This still leaves us with the problem of something that is immoral for humans is non-moral for God. He can make a non-moral action to be immoral (or moral, frankly.) What other non-moral actions has He made moral/immoral?
We are left in an interesting pickle. We have no clue whether eating the fruit is moral/immoral/non-moral to God. Any of the options leaves us with the problem of whether we should be following the same moral dictates of the God (which we cannot determine) or we should be following what God says, whether ultimately it is moral or not.
Let’s look at real life. We, as humans, find genocide detestable. If there is anything that most seem to agree is “evil” it is this act. Assume that in some way, some how, you learn that it is immoral to commit genocide. “Over God’s head” as it were, written in whatever stone absolute morality is written.
A human comes to you and says, “God told me to tell you to commit genocide.” On this, you could scoff and say, “Ha! I happen to know that genocide is immoral. Therefore I will not commit it.” But this generates a concern. If God can determine a moral act is immoral, can He not equally determine an immoral act is moral? Why would it only be a one-way street? The person could respond, “But you believe morality is vested in God’s nature. That is your absolute morality. And God specifically informed me that it has now changed—it is now moral.” Couldn’t it be?
If it was immoral for the humans to eat of that tree, and non-moral or moral for God, then God arbitrarily determines morality. If it was immoral for both, then God created immorality by creating a choice. Either way, it is God that is determining immorality on an unknown, unverified, and completely uncertain system.
Which should gives us an extreme humility in imposing morality on others, based upon a God that refuses to reveal what is really moral or not.